Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, there have been many stories about the gaps that exist within the long-term care sector and the impact they are having on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
However, here in Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge there is a different story to tell. Early on, Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) started working alongside long-term care homes (LTCH) and public health partners to ensure residents have access to the level of care they need and deserve.
The hospital immediately provided support on the frontlines, even before government-mandated hospital involvement.
From the outset, the goal of the partnership was to give the patients access to services that provided a high level of care, for those that wanted to receive care in their home. This also helped reduce pressure on the hospital’s surge capacity during the pandemic.
This was done by providing 24/7 virtual geriatrics and general internal medicine on-call care to all LTCHs in the catchment area. This meant that specialists from the hospital were available anytime to consult on care of patients, while they were still in their homes. Also, the community palliative care team, made up of a group of local family physicians and nurse practitioners, continued to provide timely round-the-clock support to LTCHs when needed.
“Our family physicians working in these settings are very dedicated to their patients and helped us identify ways to optimize care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. Allan Grill, Chief of Family Medicine at MSH, and one of the hospital’s co-leads on the LTCH strategy during the pandemic.
Once the government legislated hospital support, MSH provided additional help in the form of a mobile team that included nurse practitioners to visit these homes. They tested staff and patients, provided infection prevention and control (IPAC) support and education to the staff in LTCHs and reported back to a task force that identified other needs that could be addressed in real-time.
As a result of this partnership, most of the LTCHs in the catchment area have moved into the green ‘low-risk’ home category. Furthermore, from March through April, the hospital has had fewer than 20 COVID-19 related admissions from long-term care homes – one of the lowest admission rates in the province.
“What makes our outreach and work so successful is our unique structure,” says Cheryl Osborne, Patient Care Director, Emergency Department and Ambulatory Services at MSH and co-lead of the hospital’s LTCH strategy during COVID-19. “We have daily touchpoints with all the partners so we can focus on the pressing issues and problem solve with everyone at the table in the moment.”
When onsite, the support the hospital task force provides is about building capacity within the LTCH settings.
“The team goes into the homes to do a lot of the education and training. We have been building sustainability since day one,” Osborne says.
Photo: Dr. Allan Grill, Chief of Family Medicine and Cheryl Osborne, Director, Emergency Services and Ambulatory Care at Markham Stouffville are leading the work between MSH and long-term care homes, providing care and support to the community’s most vulnerable.